“More for her. You heard Federan’s report. On the way to the bridge she created to save those fleeing the True South Lowlands she was attacked by her own people. By mortals. Once stories begin to circulate about her there will be those who claim her magic is the reason the Elements withhold themselves from us. Others who seek to control her. Yet more who will attack her for the same reason as the Archivist. Because they consider a mortal with magic to be inherently wrong.”
“I know this is not true. He must know I do not separate them lightly. Besides, sending her north is the safest path. In the north they need help only she can provide. By the time she returns rumors and stories of her helpful, essential magic will circulate and she will be less feared by those who fear change most of all.”
“The whole empire has such needs,” said Mitash. “Perhaps a more public display of her abilities…”
“Beyond the raising of those bridges?” Eioth sighed. “And you, you face similar difficulties. The South East demesne has no mortals within its boarders. Not for decades. The elves of the South East will consider the fates of mortals of the empire to be of less importance than their own comfort and safety. You will, I know, have difficulty compelling them to share the contents of their storerooms. You heard that archivist just now. So quickly do our people forget the Empire is all of us!”
“Chandri’s actions long ago were an offense against morality.”
“That being said, as I pointed out to Lady Halidan to her great distress, it was not illegal. It shall be, when the Synod can direct attention to addressing old oversights and offenses, but you will go with no law to support you. Only your own words, morals and intelligence.”
“I shall endeavor to be worthy.”
“And I direct that you take mortals and half bloods with you. That will also offend those you meet.”
Mitash gave him a startled look.
“Will that not be dangerous, for the mortals? The half mortals?”
“Yes. For all concerned, and yet it must be so. Halidan has proven to me, over and over, that knowledge of the mortals is invaluable in this time. To cook food, to preserve it using salt of all things. Their road building, their medicines. All knowledge that you and I do not have. I doubt that you have a book in your library concerning the methods by which mortals create, well, anything. I insist that you take a mortal healer as I have heard there was once a school for mortal healers at the major Water temple in the South East and they might still have what is needed to create their medicines. Seeds and tree cuttings must be sent north and to the True South to replace that which was destroyed by floods. You shall also have a selection of builders and those experienced in the transport of goods over rough ground. And, since they will need protection I will send a small group of guards made up of those of mixed blood. Before you ask, yes, I am making a point with my staffing selections. Reminding them both mortals and elves make up the citizenry of the Empire.”
“Going by the policy that if you are going to offend you might as well offend with enthusiasm!”
It wasn’t much of a joke but Eioth smiled in response.
“That as well, my friend.”
After a perfunctory knock at the door Federan returned.
“Tormin has been sent for,” said Federan. “He was relieved of his guard duties by one of Lady Halidan’s bodyguards and has vanished about some task of his own. It may be some time until they lay hands upon him.”
Eioth nodded. “When he returns will be soon enough.”
“I marvel at your self control, High King, dealing with the Synod this afternoon,” said Federan. “Why are you still having this argument with the Synod? It has been a moon, more, since the spells failed. Why is it only now you are demanding they reach out to the refugees? Why has more not been done?”
“My head aches as much from the arguments as from the Water in the Air,” said Mitash while Eioth gathered his usual calm. “They wail and cry and moan that nothing can be accomplished except by the will of the Elements. They perform the same rituals over and over in the hope that this time the Elements will rise to their call and while doing so declare they serve the empire.”
Federan groaned and shook his head.
“They are children,” continued Eioth. “Hoping to awaken and find that it was all set to rights by no other act than by wishing it to be so. They exhaust me. It was my hope that you and Silva would come, and by your own testimony, tell the high lords what has truly happened to our people. You know and can explain as to the true depth of the mud and pain and desperation and, what occurred instead? We are distracted by Chandri and other matters.”
“As one of those distractions was the attempted assassination of my wife, I desire a better understanding of what has occurred in my absence,” said Federan.
Eioth glanced toward his friend, then away pacing his private sanctuary, his arms folded within his sleeves so that none could see his clenched fists. Since the only potential witness to his agitated state was his old friend and student, Federan, and his trusted secretary, Mitash, he wondered at his own state of mind. Why was he trying to conceal his thoughts? It might be that Federan’s wife was also the subject of his thoughts. Yes, that was the additional worry. At this moment he faced the fact that Fderan’s allegiance was no longer completely Eioth’s. On taking a wife Federan became part of a different whole. Silva and Federan. Federan’s greater attention was no longer Eioth’s to command. Silva possessed his heart and mind, as it should be. As Halidan did for Eioth.
Even so, Eioth acknowledged a touch of jealousy and a moment of concern.
If challenged, where would Federan’s loyalty lie?
With his wife, or would he acknowledge the greater needs of the empire over his own will and loves?